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Must see mystery!
10/10 I just saw this wonderful film at the San Francisco Film Festival as a surprise entry. Beautifully shot and realized, it keeps you guessing until the end as to the true outcome. It was throughly entertaining and innovative. This movie has it all: romance, suspense, star crossed lovers and supernatural illusions. Edward Norton is perfectly cast as Eisenheim The Illusionist. His accent flowed seamlessly and he simply disappeared into the role. The real revelation to me was none other than Paul Giamatti. Paul's richly accented role was not altogether unlike Tommy Lee Jones' role in The Fugitive. I found his scenes with Norton full of respect and begrudging admiration. It was an absolute joy to see these two pros at work. I will definitely be paying to see this one again when it's released theatrically.4 years ago
Brilliant movie, exceptional all around
10/10 This movie was stunning in many aspects. Visually in terms of locations, inside and out, there was great consistency and a nothing seemed strained. The story weaved fluidly through these locations and seemed to make the locales a vital part of the story. Ed Norton was mesmerizing, a superb performance that allowed the story to unfold seemingly at his discretion. Jess Biel was very believable and stunningly beautiful. Paul Giamatti (sp) played an admirable role and took the viewer by surprise in many elements of the story. The story was fresh and imaginative, very intriguing. Not as predictable as you would think. We saw this at a Sundance screening and the entire theater of 500+ seats was full and when the movie was over all you could hear was excited and happy chatter, lots of applause as well. Director came out for a Q&A after and was very amiable in answering questions. Highly recommended!!!4 years ago
This is not a Review. This is only an Illusion.
8/10 "The Illusionist" is a unique film that combines two often stale genres into something fresh: the lush romantic period piece and the "AHA!" mystery thriller (a genre M. Night Shamalyan has single-handedly run into the ground recently). Helmed by a first time director (Neil Burger), based on a short story, and featuring an eclectic cast, "The Illusionist" had the perfect set-up to be a monumental disaster. With a graceful slight-of-hand, it ends up being something very good.4 years ago
As with any run-of-the-mill period piece, there's a lavish attention to the set designs and costumes, here representing late nineteenth century Vienna. Director Burger puts a nice spin on the same-old, same-old with an acute attention to lighting (especially in the dreamily over-exposed flashbacks) and old fashioned camera techniques (witness the circular camera's eye closing to transition from scenes) to give the film the feel of being a fond memory of a classic movie from a bygone era.
The central romance where Edward Norton's title character and Jessica Biel's Dutchess are star-crossed lovers kept apart because of class and society, had all the makings of a snore-inducing cheese-athon. Executed in an understated manner that services the greater plot, it ends up being anything but. Norton's performance, especially in the second half of the film when he turns into a man of very few words, had the potential to be one-note. As an actor, he speaks volumes with his eyes. Biel, a former teen idol and TV star, seemed a horrific choice for this role. She pulls of the nifty trick of being quite good. Even better are Rufus Sewell as the tyrannical crown-prince and Paul Giamatti as the chief inspector. Using a short story as the source material, characterizations had the potential to be paper-thin, but these seasoned veterans make the most of their lines and scenes adding terror, humor, and gravitas through their vocal and physical deliveries where lesser actors would've been wooden and cold. The entire cast also worked together very well utilizing their odd, vaguely European and aristorcatic accent. Everyone used it so consistently and earnestly, it didn't seem to matter after awhile that the accent was unnecessary.
A more over-eager or pretentious director may have completely sabotaged the fantastic ending to "The Illusionist" and cheated the audience. Handled deftly by Burger, the grande finale where "all is revealed" is a wholly organic and satisfying conclusion that rewards the patient viewer and fulfills the lofty promises of the themes presented throughout the work.
"The Illusionist" boasts an excellent music score from minimalist composer Phillip Glass that easily rivals his great work done in "Candyman" and "The Hours." Norton and Giamatti treat us to some of the best "staring" since the days of silent films. The look on Giamatti's face and the positioning of his raised eyebrows as he watches Norton perform his illusions coupled with Norton's eyes as he pulls off his tricks are priceless.
Worth the price of tickets
8/10 The Illusionist is a very entertaining movie. The beginning of the movie sets an awesome foundation for the rest of the film to work with, without making the rest of the movie predictable and pointless. Although the basic story of boy gets girl, boy loses girl may not be original, the way the plot is presented with the excellent magical imagery keeps one interested in Edward Norton's character. My only complaint would be that the movie needs a little editing towards the end as the creators seem to show basically the same scene over and over in an attempt to drive home Norton's character's emotional distress. Unfortunately, this gets a little monotonous for viewers. Still, Norton, Sewell, Giamatti (and surprisingly Biel) provide excellent performances that, along with the beautiful cinematography, make a great movie.4 years ago
Norton is mesmerizing
9/10 I am a long time fan of the old theatre magicians and have been fascinated by the wave of spiritualism that swept both continents around the turn of the last century. This movie plays off those real life happenings, with the added twist of court and political intrigue. The movie is lush - as a period piece should be - with terrific performances from a true ensemble cast. Edward Norton has the charismatic gaze that makes you believe in every thing he does. Jennifer Biel is tragic and compelling as a woman trapped by society and dubious duty. Paul Giamatti - who seems to be in every other movie these days - is wonderful as a conflicted man unsure of whom he serves. Rufus Sewell, as the Crown Prince Leopold, is that man, and he embodies the boo-hiss villain. Vain and driven, he is larger than life and not one to cross, as the illusionist comes to find out. The music of Philip Glass fits the scenes and add just the right amount of tension. Plus the horses are very old world with large hooves and a heck of a lot of presence. A compelling and beautiful film.4 years ago